(Message title and Scripture passage taken from John Maxwell’s series, MAKE YOUR MOVE)
I was visiting someone in the hospital this week, and a curtain separated the room into two. At one point, there were loud beeping sounds from a machine on the other side of the curtain, so I looked over. An elderly lady was gasping for air, so I went over and asked a profound question, “Are you okay?” “Do you want me to call someone to help?”
She replied, “No, it just hurts really bad.”
I asked her what she was doing in the emergency room, and she said, “My stomach hurts, but the doctor hasn’t found out why.”
I told her I was a pastor, and asked if she would like me to pray for her. She said she wasn’t religious, but welcomed prayer. After I prayed for her, tears came rolling from the corners of her eyes. Then I began to talk with her about Jesus Christ and life after death. I encouraged her to trust Jesus Christ to have peace with God.
She replied, “I’ll try.”
I said, “Don’t try. Just let Him love you.”
When I went back over to the other side of the curtain, I felt like a little child who had his first taste of ice cream. I thought, “That is what I was made for!”
Unchurched people need a pastor more than church people. In our church website, there is a page about me, the pastor. This is what it reads: Pastor Dana Chau is the Perfect Pastor
"The Perfect Pastor would remind people of Jesus. He would tell people about God in a way they could understand. He would care about people so much that he’s not afraid to cry with them.
He would do whatever God the Father told him to do. Of course, he would not be without sin, like Jesus, but he would confess his sins and ask for forgiveness. The Perfect Pastor doesn’t have to be perfect. He just needs to be a good friend of God, so that when people can’t see God, they can see God in their Pastor.
When people have the Perfect Pastor, they will let him outside the church, too. They remember that Jesus didn’t stay with church people all the time. People who don’t know God need the Perfect Pastor more than people who know God."
The pastor is not called to perform the work to keep a religious organization alive. The pastor is called to prepare believers for maturity and ministry. And together, the pastor and believers are called to go out and bless the world; we are not called to just stay inside the church walls and bless each other.
And if the Church is to bless the world, we need to move out. Our text is Colossians 4:7-15.
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter from a prison cell to the Colossians. Paul was not in prison for a criminal violation but for his faith. And the people he listed in these 12 verses were Christians whom the Colossians knew. These Christians were God’s Church serving outside the Church walls. They serve as a model for us to follow.
If we are to be God’s Church moving outside our walls to serve God by serving people, we would do well to follow in their steps. Let’s look at the four steps of God’s Church moving out.
Step one: God’s Church needs to step out. We see this in the characters Paul mentioned were with him.
A Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” If God’s Church is to move out, we need to do that physically, not just with words, flyers, invitations or our website. We need to take our ministry to the unchurched, rather than expect the unchurched to come into the church.
Richard Halverson, prior chaplain of the U.S. Senate, wrote, “The work of the church is outside the establishment. Outside the church. In the world. And it takes every member to do it! Nowhere in the Bible is the world exhorted to ‘come to the church.’ But the church’s mandate is clear: She must go to the world.”
Whether we look at Abraham in the Old Testament or the disciples in the New Testament, God’s command is clear: God’s blessings must go out from the believers to the unbelievers, not that the unbelievers would come to the believers for the blessings.
Practically speaking, we must begin to see ourselves as the pastors to our neighbor, to our co-workers and classmates. The unchurched need a pastor, but only you can be their pastor. I cannot. I do not have contact with your neighbors, with your co-workers or with your classmates. You do, and God wants you, His Church, to move out.
Chuck Swindoll noted that God’s Church is the only organization in the world that exists for non-members. Serving within the church is important, just as taking care of your family is important. But we need to step out, if we are to function as God designed His Church to function.
Step two: God’s Church needs to serve God. We see this emphasized in Tychicus and Epaphras.
To serve God is different than to volunteer. You can volunteer in a computer lab or a hospital in order to get experience for your own benefit or for your service hours. You can volunteer in the worship team or the nursery because you enjoy playing music or playing with the children. But when you serve God, you go where God wants you to go.
Tychicus is noted as a “fellow servant in the Lord.” And in verse 8, Paul is clear that he is sending Tychicus to update the Colossians on what is going on with Paul and others. Tychicus is not volunteering to go.
Epaphras is noted as a “servant of Christ Jesus.” Epaphras wrestled in prayer for the Colossians to be mature. I don’t know of anyone who volunteers to pray for others unless God impresses on their hearts to do so. (I know many people who choose not to pray even though God commands us to pray.)
Are you getting a sense of the difference between volunteering yourself and serving God? When we serve God, we do not dictate to God what we are willing to do, where we are willing to do it, with whom we are willing to work, what rewards we will receive. God determines what we do, and He prepares us for such service.
Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Serving God is doing what He has prepared in advance for us to do.
Practically speaking, we learn how God has prepared us in order to discover what He is calling us to do. Our process for membership at this church includes a spiritual gift, interest, passion, experience and personality survey that helps you understand how God may prepare you to serve Him. The survey is a good place to begin.
We also need to be careful, because none of us have 100% pure motives and almost all of us feel guilty or co-dependent, causing us to become over-committed. It takes one to know one, and if you find yourself over-committed often, ask God if He may have someone else in mind for all the opportunities that come your way.
Step three: God’s Church needs to sacrifice self. We see this in particular in Aristarchus and in Luke.
Paul described Aristarchus as a “fellow prison.” And we read in Acts 19:29 that Aristarchus was arrested for his ministry among the Ephesians. He, like Paul, sacrificed his freedom, reputation and even his own life, for the spreading of the gospel.
Paul mentions Luke as the doctor by his side, taking care of Paul. We read in 2 Timothy 4:11, that Luke was still by Paul’s side near the end of Paul’s life. While Demas, on the other hand, was unwilling to sacrifice anymore and deserted Paul.
Luke, a doctor, who could have practiced medicine, received prestige and good compensation, and gone to church every Sunday, decided to leave his practice in order to follow and minister to Paul. Some might say, “What a waste of talents and opportunity.”
John 12:23-26 records Jesus’ view of his sacrifice on the cross: “Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
Practically speaking, sacrificing self is not wasting talents or opportunity but strategically investing into opportunities with highest returns. It was the missionary martyr, Jim Elliot, who said, “He is no fool to lose what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.”
Some of you are sacrificing your comfort and reputation when you share the love and truth of Jesus Christ with unchurched neighbors, co-workers and classmates. By being the pastor to your family, you are serving God when you serve them. By being the pastor to your neighbors, they move from strangers to those you serve. By being the pastor to your co-workers, they move from competitors to “your congregation.” By being the pastor to your classmates, they move from peers to prospects for Christ.
When I worked in Chiron Corporation, I saw myself as the pastor to the Branch DNA Department. God gave me an opportunity to lead an unwed mother to Christ. God called me to befriend a homosexual co-worker. As a result, he began going to church. God called me to help others with their experiments and to serve others. As a result, the morale of the department improved significantly and God was glorified.
What I found was that when you sacrifice self as God commands, the sacrifice really is no sacrifice at all. The satisfaction in life and the eternal rewards are so great that the sacrifice pales. But when you protect self, contrary to God’s command, the sacrifice appears unreasonable. The choice is ours; but if we are to move out as God’s Church, we must choose to sacrifice self.
Step four: God’s Church needs to surmount failure. We see this in particular in Onesimus and in Mark.
Onesimus was a man with a stigmatized past. He was a runaway slave. But Onesimus didn’t allow his past mistake to disqualify him from serving God. Mark was a man who deserted Paul on an earlier missionary journey. But Mark didn’t allow his past mistake to disqualify him from serving God.
I’m not the pastor because I have a perfect past or present. I’ve made my share of mistakes as a pastor. I’ve said things from the pulpit that I wish I had not, but I still get up every Sunday to fulfill my ministry. I’ve convinced our church to try new ways to reach the community, and no one from the community responded. But I still try new ways to connect with our community.
The only people who don’t make mistakes are those who never do anything. So let’s learn from the mistakes, but don’t let the fear of making mistakes keep us from serving God. You can be forgiven of your past and mistakes. You can be useful to God.
Practically speaking, surmounting failure requires that we know failure is not fatal and that we focus on ministry rather than on mistakes. If you think failure is fatal or focus on mistakes instead of ministry, you will be rendered useless to God. But if you focus on ministry, serving God by serving people, you will not allow the fear of failure to keep you from being used by God.
Leighton Ford said, “There are two dangers that the church must avoid. Isolation from the world and imitation of the world.” If God’s Church moves out, we will never be in danger of isolation from the world. If we don’t move out, we are in danger of both.